Chicago – Like many music lovers, I’ve recently found myself becoming a fan of New York band X Ambassadors. Their hit single “Renegades” has been on television in Jeep commercials and all over the radio, from alternative stations to top forty, and the foursome’s debut full-length VHS has been climbing charts since its release. In June I went to Bonnaroo, excited to chat with lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Harris, his brother and keyboardist Casey, guitarist Noah Feldshuh, and drummer Adam Levins. They were wonderful to interview. We talked 90s hip hop and R&B. We discussed musicals. These four best friends proved themselves to be extremely down to earth and sweet as honey.
I was also excited to see X Ambassadors perform. However, I was only able to stay for the first few songs of their Bonnaroo set, as I had to catch another act. The same happened when I saw them in Wisconsin at Summerfest earlier in July, but this past Friday I was finally able see the guys rock out in all their glory. During the sold-out show, they proved to me and the other 5,000 people in attendance why X Ambassadors are worthy of the being labeled “One of the Hottest Acts Around.”
The guys had fans going wild with “Giants,” off their EP The Reason and “Unsteady,” on both The Reason and VHS. They dedicated “Gorgeous” to Chicago. People clapped along and watched in amazement as Sam hit the high notes with ease. When it came time for “Renegades,” Sam hollered, “If you know this next one, you better sing along!” Screams filled the room as members of the audience realized what song he was referring to. During “Jungle,” the guys wildly thrashed around stage. Sam and Noah knelt down on stage, wailing on their bass and guitar, leaning into each other. Casey ferociously jammed out on his keys. Sam also strutted around with his saxophone, getting plenty of applause from the crowd.
All night Sam Harris jumped on and off the six foot stage of the Aragon Ballroom like an Olympic gymnast competing for gold. He climbed into the crowd, ushering in squeals and sing-alongs. But people sang along all night long. Just as I witnessed in Tennessee, fans knew the words to every song and not just the singles and radio hits. Which is pretty impressive given they just released their debut album and were the opening act, performing in support of Milky Chance. I think what has impressed me most about X Ambassadors is the support they’ve been receiving from fans. People genuinely love them. It’s like they see they’re just four normal guys, being themselves, having fun, doing what they love. You can’t help but gravitate toward them.
The fans I talked to in Chicago that evening, as well as people I chatted with in Milwaukee and Manchester, gushed about X Ambassadors, boasting about how talented and charming they were, as if the four men were their good friends. One super fan in particular, actually could boast about being close to the guys. That “super fan” would be Noah’s Uncle Dan, who told me how he and his wife have been traveling around over the years to see his nephew play guitar with his closest friends. Dan proudly told me story after story, including one about the guys traveling from New York to Cincinnati, Ohio to perform at some little dive. At the end of the night, the guys only took home seventeen dollars. Dan’s wife cried in disbelief, but Dan reminded her of what was most important: that these four immensely talented friends were doing what they loved, while sharing their music with others. Well, X Ambassadors are far from worrying about filling tiny clubs. They’ll soon be heading off on their own headlining tour, and given fans’ reactions and their remarkable, energetic performance, it’s safe to say it won’t be long before these four are selling out stadiums and arenas.
X Ambassadors are currently on tour. A full list of dates is available of the band’s Facebook page.
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.